“Corruption is not unique to this country. It’s not unique to Africa and it’s not just confined to the public sector,” said 60-year-old Supreme Court of Appeal Judge, Mahomed Navsa.
Navsa gave the Annual Human Rights Law Lecture entitled Human Rights and the Rule of Law: A Bulwark against Corruption and Maladministration in South Africa? at the Stellenbosch University law faculty last night.
“The developed world has their own problems,” said Navsa.
To prove his point, Navsa used Rolls Royce’s recent bribery allegations which set off investigations in three countries – the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Brazil – as examples.
Navsa also referred to the 2009 European Health Report, which found that bribery and procurement corruption appeared to be the most prevalent types of corruption in the European Union.
The judge praised the Constitution when speaking on corruption in South Africa.
“Our Constitution is designed to prevent corruption and maladministration which diverts resources from the poor and the disadvantaged. It ensures that the promise of a better future for all is achievable,” he said.
When answering the question of whether the Constitution sufficiently safeguards against corruption and maladministration, he compared the Constitution to architecture.
“The Constitution provides the architecture but it doesn’t self-propagate – it doesn’t live on its own. It lives in the hearts and minds of its citizens, a commitment to protect it. A commitment to be faithful,” said Navsa.
He also acknowledged that people make mistakes and that “only Allah is perfect”.
“What cannot be tolerated is deliberate dishonesty on the part of public office bearers, corporations, organisations and institutions which have a negative effect on society, particularly in relation to the poor and the vulnerable,” he clarified.
Navsa then pointed out that the South African government has taken note of the threat of corruption to democracy on numerous occasions.
He referenced a speech given by Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba at the Reuters Economist of the Year Awards earlier this year: “The Conference identified the ANC’s immediate tasks in the economy which involved reigniting growth, creating employment, pursuing transformation and combating corruption.”
“Now who can argue with that statement?” asked Navsa.
The government’s concern and zero-tolerance approach has led to the adoption of legislation such as the The Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004, according to the judge.
The Preamble of the Act recognizes that corruption and corrupt activities undermine the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights; endangers the stability of society; undermines constitutional values of democracy and ethical values and morality. “It’s good to remember and understand the effects,” advised Navsa.
He made an effort to encourage students to become more involved in social justice issues. “You are the future. To you we entrust everything that is sacred. As university students, you should be concerned for the good of all,” he said.
The Gauteng-born judge studied at the University of the Western Cape where he contributed to the running of the community legal aid clinic. Professor Sandra Liebenberg (52), the H.F. Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights, invited Navsa to speak at the annual event. – Christina Pitt